Run you to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if you can find a man…
Without any introduction, let us plunge at once into our subject, which is True manhood. It opens broadly before us in the suggestions which both this verse and the chapter from which it is taken contain. And first of all we will note -
I. THE DIVINE DEFINITION AND DESCRIPTION OF IT. It consists in executing judgment and seeking the truth. The Lord asks importunately that "a man" may be found, and then he defines and describes what he means by "a man," in the words, "one that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth." Such' is his description of true manhood. So, then, the true man is he to whom truth - that which is right, that which is in accordance with the will of God - is the all-important thing. The habit of his mind, the purpose of his life, is to discover this truth - to know what is right. And when what professes to be truth comes before him, he weighs it in the balance of conscience, tests how it tallies with the mind and will of God; and according to its agreement thereto he approves or disapproves, he gives his judgment. And then, when his judgment is formed, his mind made up, as we say, he does not linger in the outer courts of mere approbation, but he presses on into the very sanctuary, the holy of holies, of corresponding action - he "executeth judgment." Having sought, seen, approved the right, he does it; not once now and then, but habitually. Such is the man after God's own heart, such the Divine description of what manhood really is. And now observe:
1. How complete a definition this is! For what form of goodness or excellence is there that this does not include? Whatever is right for a man to do or be comes under this description. Our well-known word, "virtue," will help us here; for what is virtue but simply that which becomes, which properly belongs to the idea of, the vir, the grand old Roman name for man regarded in his higher nature, as contrasted with the lower idea of man in regard to those qualities which he possesses in common with the brutes around him? Man spoken of as merely the human creature was designated by another word; but man as intelligent and moral, man in his nobler being, they designated by that word vir, from which our word" virtue" comes. Therefore" this word ' virtue' corresponds as closely as possible with our word 'manliness.' They are equivalent terms. Then, if we know what virtue is, we know what true manhood is. It includes all moral excellence whatsoever. It is the fruit, the certain fruit, of a man's seeking the truth, and then, when he has found it and conscience tells him that he has found it, of his straightway practically putting it into action, embodying it in word and deed. It is the product of the three highest faculties God has given to man - intellect, conscience, will therefore must embrace all that belongs and is becoming to the vir, the man, and must exclude all that is contrary thereto."
2. And how catholic a description it is! In it "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, male nor female, bond nor free;" there is neither - that is, neither exclusively - Buddhist, Mohammedan, Christian, Jew; neither Romanist, Eastern, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, nor any other sect nor creed whatsoever. For "God is no respecter of persons," but, as St. Peter said to Cornelius, "In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him." Thus catholic, thus all-embracing, is this Divine description of a true man. God's chosen ones consist of all the good.
3. But how condemnatory of the world's standards! Before what tinsel imitations of the true manhood does the world bow down! How many glorify physical strength - the Samsonian type of man! And indeed the possession of a physical frame capable of much toil, much endurance, that shrinks not from hardships, and laughs at bold and daring enterprises before which other men quail; a body well organized, its varied functions all working powerfully and smoothly like the several parts of a perfectly adjusted machine; - that is a great gift of God. But to make a man's physical qualities the measure of his manhood, that cannot be worthily thought of for one moment. And so, too, if we take intellectual distinction - that, though far nobler than the physical, will fall before the high claim of the Divine ideal. And as for secular distinction - that greatness which consists in what a man has, wealth, rank, power, rather than what he is, - that claim will not stand for one moment. The world may, does, fall down before these things, and before the last it absolutely grovels; but in the high courts of God's judgment they go for nothing at all. And at that bar not a little that has the world's free license as consistent with manhood is frowned upon and utterly condemned. No; right, truth, virtue, all that is in harmony with God's will, - this is what the man after God's mind seeks, finds, and habitually does.
4. And how commendatory to the conscience is this Divine definition of manhood! Put it before any thoughtful man, and at once he confesses it worthy of God to set forth and blessed for man to seek after. Here the excellent of the earth in all ages and in all lands have found a common meeting-place, and, when unbiased conscience has spoken, have come to a cordial embrace.
5. But how Christ-compelling is this Divine description of true manhood! For he who sets himself to embody it, and really enters on the glorious endeavor, will speedily find that he wants a model, a motive, and a might which assuredly he cannot find in the world around him. A model; for mere abstract descriptions help but little. What can the most brilliant word-painting do to enable you to realize what a lovely landscape is like? It can do something, but not very much. But let the gifted artist draw the scene, let him in beautiful picture portray it, and how much more vividly we realize it then! The mechanician must have his model to work from if he is to do successful work. And so, would we realize the description God has given us of a true man, we also must have our model. But there is only One who is flawless and altogether perfect - the Lord Jesus Christ. Patriarchs, prophets, psalmists, apostles, saints, even the most worthy, are none of them perfect; for we have to modify here, correct there, and absolutely reject elsewhere. It is, therefore, to the life of our blessed Lord and Master that this Divine description of manhood forces me would I find the one example I may safely, always, and everywhere copy. But I want a motive also; for when I begin my great endeavor I find it no holiday task. It brings no worldly gain, it wins no human applause. My natural bent and bias are utterly against it. Ease and comfort are ever crying, "Spare thyself." Companions on the road are few, and not all of them to my liking, and the way is narrow and rough and steep. What, then, can alone spur me on and constrain me by a compulsion I cannot resist? What but a sense of Christ's great love, and the supreme solicitude to "be accepted of him," which flows therefrom? There is absolutely no other motive which will serve for the whole way. Some will take me a part of the way, and others a further part, but all will fail long ere the true end is reached. Therefore am I again driven to Christ, that, as he is my Model, so he may be my Motive too. But he must also be my Might.' The power to endure, the strength, to, toil, the daily grace for daily need, - whence can it come but from him who has said, Because I live, ye shall live also?" True manhood, real virtue, is therefore an impossible thing apart from Christ. More or less stunted and distorted forms of it there may be, but the Divine ideal, never. May he help us to remember this. Thus, then, complete, catholic, condemnatory of the world's standards, commendatory to the conscience, compelling resort to Christ, is this Divine manhood of which our text tells. But note -
II. THE DIVINE DISAPPOINTMENT AND DISMAY AT NOT FINDING IT WHERE IT MAY SO JUSTLY HAVE SEEN EXPECTED. Observe the words of our text, how they challenge the most thorough search everywhere, implying that the Lord himself had made such search - he whose eyes (ver. 3) "are upon the truth," who is keen-visioned to discover his own in the densest crowd or in the most obscure abode. But now he challenges any to make a like search. Let them run to and fro in the by-streets, in the broad ways, in market-places, in all parts where men congregate; let them in every such place see, know, seek, if they can find even one true man. And the challenge is made not in scorn nor in anger, but in disappointment and dismay. For where, if not amongst God's own professed people, and in the center of their worship, Jerusalem; where, if not there, could such as God sought be found? But not even there were they; there were "none righteous; no, not one." But what was found this whole chapter plainly declares. There was horrible wickedness - wickedness which only such appalling images as the seventh and eighth verses of this chapter could fitly describe. And this not amongst the ignorant poor only, but amongst the great, the well instructed also (vers. 4, 5). And where there was a form of religion the power was wanting, as the second verse tells. They might use devout words, but the Lord, whose eyes were on the truth (ver. 3), knew how hollow that profession was. So that there was not one man such as God desired. And, though willing to spare, God was forced to punish (ver. 9). This and much more of a like sort prevails all through the chapter. But the contemplation of it fills the Divine mind with disappointment and dismay. It is deep distress to him that he cannot find what he so much desires to find. Are we quite sure that the like question might not be asked in our day? Is the Divine ideal of manhood so constantly realized? Is there not very much to make a devout heart fear lest a like search might lead to a too much like result? Let us remember what it is God looks for in us. Not that which the world thinks so much of, but this manhood; and he mourns when he finds it not. And let it be our prayer that more and more we may be men according to his mind. Note next -
III. THE DIVINE DEMONSTRATION OF THE DELIGHT AND JOY HE HAS IN IT. He says if there be but one such man, he will spare Jerusalem for his sake. Such is the meaning of the last clause of this verse. What higher proof (save one which we will note anon) could he give of his estimate of this manhood? He gave large proof when he told Abraham that if there were ten righteous in Sodom he would spare the city for their sakes. And he is continually doing the like of what he here said he would do. He is continually blessing the Bad for the sake of the good. "Ye are the salt of the earth," said our Lord to his disciples, implying thereby that, but for his people, the world would go to corruption. "For the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" - the days, he meant, of Jerusalem's destruction, which were then, as in Jeremiah's time, swiftly drawing on. And how often we read of bad and wicked descendants and successors on the throne of David, who for his sake were dealt with far other than they deserved! And today, how many godless children of pious parents are for like reason dealt with in like manner! The Church might well, did she choose, challenge the world to say where it would be without the Church. The impious sneer at, persecute, and despise the godly; but were it not for those they so shamefully use, theirs would be a short shrift and a quick going down into hell. And let all who are living godly in Christ Jesus be cheered by knowing that, though persecuted by the world, they are yet most precious in the Lord's sight. Now finally note -
IV. THE SUPREME DEMONSTRATION GOD HAS GIVEN OF HIS DELIGHT AND JOY IN IT. We turn to the gospel for this, and it enables us to reply to the Divine challenge to "find a man;" for we have found him "of whom Moses and the prophets did write" -the man Christ Jesus. He has answered to the Divine description, and for his sake not a city have been - leaving the people still the slaves of sin; but the beginning, of a new life, in which we shall grow more and more into the fullness of the stature of the perfect man, the Divine ideal embodied in Christ Jesus. But such is the Divine delight in this Man that, for his sake, he pardons whosoever believeth on him. God hath laid help for us "on One who is mighty" to save. Let us, then, go and put in our claim, confessing our deep need of pardon, but pleading God's own promise, that for the sake of this Man - his own "beloved Son in whom he is well pleased" - he should pardon us. And the answer will come back, "Go in peace; be of good cheer: thy sins be forgiven thee." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.
WEB: "Run back and forth through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places of it, if you can find a man, if there are any who does justly, who seeks truth; and I will pardon her.